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Jean-Charles Longuet

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Telling the truth: are there limits?

Two recent talks focused on "Truth" as something good/moral. Practically, however, some information may cause havoc: the Wikileaks diplomatic data disclosure, for example, coulad have put some people at risk.

How should we manage the decision to disclose (or not) such information? Or manage the moral dilemma when telling a lie may have a positive outcome?

[update 2012/11/25] The conversation initially mixed a few things : Truth is something that is not as obvious as it seems, and Lies are more related to a deceiving/manipulative intention that to the hiding of some Truth.

Anyway, all points of views are welcome.


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    Nov 27 2012: i would propose that lie can be paralleled to laziness. many questions lead to the same answers. example: is laziness good? certainly no. same for lie. can laziness occasionally lead to more beneficial outcome? yes. for example if i want to do something stupid, but i procrastinate, meanwhile i might learn why it is silly, and do not do that. similarly, in some situations a lie might accidentally make things better. on the other hand one can argue that laziness did not in fact lead to benefit, rather, it was just luck. the same is true for lie, the problem could have been solved in a better way, but by pure luck, the wrong solution worked. is laziness forgivable? yes, in situations. so is lying. can laziness be harmless? yes, in situations. so is lying. is laziness immoral in itself? i would say no. neither lying. on the other hand, if laziness leads to harm, should we blame the lazy? of course! same for lies.

    i assert that lying and being lazy are very similar in their moral and consequential nature. but for some reason, laziness is easier to assess.
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      Nov 27 2012: Interesting parallel, and more suitable for discussion as laziness is less taboo that lies.

      However, there seem to be slight differences between both :
      - lying is a deliberate act, while being lazy is more inaction than action
      - lies outcomes are not accidental, but usually chosen (and explaining the lying action).
      This passiveness and unplanned consequences may explain that laziness is perceived as less "evil" than a lie.

      Now, lies (usually asserted as evil) may be done while positive consequences as a target : hiding someone from being hurt, for example. I was trying to point out the moral dilemma between the wrongness of lying compared to the goodness of the outcome. I do not see cases where that apply to laziness to extend your parallel in this rare case, however... Any idea ?
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        Nov 28 2012: the parallel certainly has limitations. however, i would claim that the first two is not that simple as you say.

        action vs inaction. it is just an apparent difference, not a real one. inaction is action. we choose between two possible paths.

        deliberate vs unintentional: that is partially true, but many lies are also unintentional, in the sense that they come automatically, not after conscious consideration.

        but i agree that lie can be aimed to improve things (although the actual gain is questionable), while laziness can not.

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